San Francisco-based agency Moniker has rebranded cryptocurrency platform Coinbase, aiming to reach a wider audience outside the “crypto crowd”.
Moniker was initially brought in to create a new logo, but it was soon apparent that there was “a larger need and opportunity for the visual identity system”, says Moniker creative director and founder Brent Couchman.
The rebrand was initiated at a time when Coinbase was experiencing massive growth, and according to Couchman, had become “the most trusted and easiest-to-use platform for the cryptoeconomy”, but its former identity didn’t match that position.
Coinbase briefed Moniker to create a new visual identity that would balance “the excitement and energy of this new financial world” while communicating trust and security. “To reach a wider audience, not just the typical crypto crowd, they needed a visual identity that built recognition for the brand but also allowed for a really wide range of expression to speak to new users,” says Couchman.
The new identity aims to be as simple and clear as possible to encourage users who might have previously felt intimidated by the world of crypto. That simplicity also meant that Moniker’s designs could be bold and stand out against crypto brands that leaned into a more “undesigned” or meme-like aesthetic, as Couchman puts it.
He adds, “One of the biggest challenges was finding the right balance between a trusted financial institution and this new world of crypto. You want it to be accessible and trusted, but you don’t want to come off as stodgy and boring. The audience was really broad, they’re aiming for anyone and everyone to be able to participate in the cryptoeconomy, so again it as important that the identity not alienate.”
In order to arrive at the final design, Moniker went through hundreds of different concepts and iterations in the exploration stage. At this point, the team was looking to try to uncover what made sense for the brand, “something that didn’t feel like a huge departure (specifically in terms of the app icon) but also felt like a meaningful and intentional change”. While this number of iterations isn’t Moniker’s usual process, the fact that the symbol has to go through so many legal reviews globally warranted a more exhaustive exploration to reach a mark that’s ownable.
The designers looked to the idea of wayfinding and transit signage systems for inspiration, since the team’s early conversations had unearthed the idea of Coinbase being a ‘bridge’ between traditional finance and the cryptoeconomy. “This was really the core driver early on and gave us a shared language and set of filters to think about each piece of the identity,” says Couchman. Another key concept behind the new identity was the idea that crypto is no longer a futuristic entity, but something tangible and real that can be used right now. “This also fed into the wayfinding concept, that the system needed to be immediate and grounded — not something too abstract that could potentially get in the way for users who were new to the space,” he adds.
The new icon is instantly recognisable as a ‘C’ and a coin, again conveying simplicity and accessibility. “We didn’t want people to have to work to get it, just like using the product,” says Couchman. The blue colour palette of the previous identity was retained to aid identifiability and the brand’s equity; and Moniker introduced a secondary palette to give the branding more flexibility as it grows into new markets and introduces new sub brands.
Moniker also introduced a new custom typeface, Coinbase Sans, which could be used across all applications, from dense information-heavy text to more expressive headlines. The Coinbase Sans font family comprises 36 styles (Optical versions, Display, Text, Micro and Mono), more than 29,000 glyphs, and supports over 200 Latin languages.
According to Couchman, early inspiration for the font came from conversations that revealed the team had a “long-standing appreciation for blue collar modernist typefaces, in particular types that had been overshadowed by more globally dominant fonts like Helvetica, Akzidenz Grotesk, and Univers”.
Coinbase Sans therefore draws from the “forgotten” 20th century sans serif fonts and aims to “retain the hardworking eccentricities of typefaces like Mercator, Neuzeit S and Folio, which have been neglected but are durable and have all stood the test of time,” says Couchman, adding that the designers are attempting to create “a classic and timeless look that guarantees readability in digital applications, as well as analogue and smaller print”.